Carney extends Delaware stay-at-home order, eyes June for Phase 1
Update (5/15): The governor has released his detailed plan for what will be allowed under Phase 1. It can be found here.
WILMINGTON – Gov. John Carney announced Friday afternoon that he was extending Delaware’s state of emergency to May 31, while targeting June 1 for the first phase of reopening the state’s economy.
Carney has come under increasing pressure from small business owners and some Republican lawmakers to begin easing the state’s restrictions on public movement and business. On Friday, the state began some “interim steps” in loosening restrictions on retail stores, hair salons and golf courses, but many business owners said the steps didn’t go nearly far enough.
In a statement released with his plan, Carney said that he was not ready to open Delaware’s beaches, remove restrictions on short-term rentals and or allow out-of-state travelers – despite the nearing summer season.
“Over the next couple weeks, we will build on the interim steps we took today, allowing certain small businesses to safely operate curbside, or by appointment only. We have heard the voices of small business owners loud and clear, and expect to move forward with a rolling reopening of Delaware’s economy. We will not hesitate to allow additional businesses to open before June 1, if we can do so safely,” Carney added.
The state has been under a stay-at-home order since March 24, limiting travel for residents to only essential businesses or employers to stem the transmission of the COVID-19 virus. That directive also closed thousands of small businesses across the state, many of whom have been more vocally calling for the restrictions to be eased and telling state officials that they are teetering on the brink of failure.
Delaware’s state of emergency was due to expire on May 15 – it can be extended by up to 30 days at a time by statute – but the governor chose to push it only until the end of the month.
Carney said he hopes to begin the first phase of economic reopening in June, but that is contingent on the state’s ability to contain the COVID-19 hot spot in Sussex County, and continued positive trends in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations statewide. As of May 7, more than 6,100 residents have contracted the virus and 213 have died.
The news of the target date for reopening comes on the same day that Carney’s administration announced that it had purchased 200,000 tests from a Californian company that will help Delaware dramatically expand testing for the virus. The governor also said that he will announce the details next week of a comprehensive contact tracing program, where teams will investigate a positive COVID-19 patient’s activities and notify those potentially exposed to the virus.
Carney said that details on the state’s Phase 1 reopening will also be released next week, but the state has largely followed the White House’s Opening Up America Again plan to date. Under that plan, Phase 1 would still see teleworking encouraged and non-essential travel limited. Gatherings would be limited to 10 people or less if social distancing is not possible.
It would allow for sit-down dining and the opening of gyms, movie theaters, sports venues and places of worships as long as social distancing guidelines are adhered. Bars, schools and youth programs would remain closed though.
Limits on social gathering would be raised to 50 people and travel restrictions would ease with bars and schools opening under Phase 2 of the White House plan. Robust testing and 14-day declines in cases would be necessary to move to that next phase.
“Delawareans can’t let up. Even once we move into Phase 1 of reopening, we still need to maintain social distancing to avoid a dangerous rebound in COVID-19 cases,” Carney said, encouraging residents to wash their hands, limit travel and not gather in large groups. “If we continue follow public health guidelines, we have a real shot of getting Delaware moving again starting June 1.”
By Jacob Owens